The Larger Death

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. You were probably aware; I believe it was announced. So last night I sat here at my desk and read a few lines from Ripening by Wendell Berry:

The longer we are together
the larger death grows around us.
How many we know by now
who are dead!*

Ol’ Wendell knows a thing or two about the human heart. So in keeping with the spirit of romance and earthly love, here’s a vignette, a bit of love story fiction by me. I wrote it and it’s mine and the author of it is me. (I’m teasing a someone who thinks I post too much stuff by other people.)

Park 2013-05-26 17.19.13

An After Dinner Walk

There was a day – late summer because the days were still long and warm – when we decided to go for a walk after dinner. I thought it was a poor idea, being full and sleepy. I wanted to sit and watch a game or the news, to have the cat ju­mp up in my lap and fall asleep, purring.

We started out briskly. She was in the lead as always, with her quick clipped steps. By the time we passed the gray bungalow with white window frames, two doors down, she was pulling ahead. She walked like a grade school principal on her way to break up a fight.

Hey, after dinner walks are customarily taken at a more leisurely pace.

Oh, you have the book of customs for taking walks. I’ve been looking everywhere for that. You need exercise. 

Madam, I will not have you walk me like a dog. Slow down and enjoy the stroll, or forge ahead alone.

No need to get mad.

I’m not. I’m just saying.

The bird bath in Mrs. Aldernecht’s front yard was full of fir tree needles again. The morning paper was gone from her drive, which meant she was getting too old to care for the birds, but not too sick to go outdoors. I was relieved.

Two doors farther and across the street, Charlie Harmon stood in his open garage, polishing his Yamaha. His wife left him, took the kids, but he kept those tires black and the chrome bright. He had a new satellite dish, bolted to the chimney high above the roof.  Reaching from the corporeal to the divine. We waved to him.

We reached the end of the block and turned, went on and turned again, circling back to the house. In the kitchen, she poured a glass of wine. She offered me the bottle but I shook my head.

You didn’t want to go on? I said.

What?

We went around the block, and didn’t go on to the park.

No.

She went to watch Jeopardy on the bedroom TV, to change her clothes, to drink the wine. I sat at the table and watched the last light from the window strike a metal rooster trivet hanging by the stove.

I wish we had gone on to the park, so I could pick a flower for her to have. Someone would be playing Frisbee with a dog.

Everything would be different if she had held the flower I picked for her and watched the dog running and jumping. We would have gone on to the playground, and seeing the children playing there, we would have gone home to make one of our own. Charlie would have sold the motorcycle and got his wife and family back, and I could have cleared the needles and filled the birdbath with water, to keep Mrs. Aldernecht out of the nursing home.

We turned and turned and the dog never played. The children never played and the sun went down. Then there was a day after dinner when she wasn’t there. Then neither was I. But sometimes I pick a flower, hold it for a while. When nothing happens, I let it drop.

An After Dinner Walk
by J. Kyle Kimberlin
Is Creative Commons Licensed

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5 thoughts on “The Larger Death

  1. I love it! So desperate(which my husband says I love… I suppose I do.).

    I read it aloud to him as he was sanding the baseboard in the kitchen. When it was over, I went in there and leaned over him to give him a kiss. He was annoyed that I interrupted his work. Smiling, I told him this may be the flower he didn’t pick. “Maybe.”

    Ha! …Thus far we have kept up *picking flowers* pretty well.

    But, I still believe everyone can find something to be learned, or reminded of, in this story. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks. … Yes, I was shooting for an abstract and ethereal ending. What happens to the speaker is what happens to us all, if – being out of sync – we turn back and don’t go on to the park.

  3. Oh i like your voice very much. Ended on an abstract note I felt, was that your intention?

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